An important tenet of The Bellingham Promise is to prepare our students for success in the global community. Through study abroad programs arranged by our schools or other organizations, students explore global thinking through travel. Students from our high schools share their thoughts on travel abroad below.
In January 2016, Campbell Lund, a ninth grader at Sehome High School, joined other students from across the country in a trip to Beijing, China through the Yale Young Global Scholars program.
Getting to travel abroad to Beijing to participate in the Yale Young Global Scholars (YYGS) Program was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Meeting 100 of the brightest young minds from more than 30 different countries from around the world to attend seminars and lectures taught by highly regarded Yale professors and undergrads was an honor. One of the biggest lessons distilled from my travels is not to let fear keep you from greatness. Traveling solo across the globe to spend eight days with kids and mentors I had never met seemed daunting; I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, looking back I can see that taking this leap has molded me into a more effective leader and communicator and I highly encourage other students if given a similar opportunity to take it. My time at YYGS has provided me with so many global connections and was a huge step in opening doors leading towards prospects I could only dream of.
In summer 2015, Bellingham High senior Martin Sloley joined other students from BHS in an exchange program through the German American Partnership Program (GAPP).
I had been to Germany once before so the actual setting was not entirely new. On the first trip I mostly followed my mother and grandmother anywhere we went and didn’t really have any kind of interaction without my family members. This time was different because I spent most of my time with German kids of the same age. My German teen host Mark and I got along really well and every night we’d hang out in his room, drink Coke, and play videogames – the nights that we weren’t out anyway. During this trip I had a good understanding for what it’s like to be a teenager in Germany which was certainly a large part of why I enjoyed my time so much. What I really took from it was that tourism is not a good way to travel. Sightseeing might make for good pictures, but adventures make better memories and better experiences.
The GAPP program gave me an opportunity to truly experience a culture and immerse myself in it, something that can’t really be accomplished with a sightseeing or tourist trip. GAPP is about becoming German for a month. It wasn’t about seeing all the churches and palaces and castles; it was about living day-to-day in Germany. That might sound underwhelming, but really it’s the opposite. The trip is great and I would urge anyone who is thinking of going to go.
My biggest challenge was probably understanding the public transportation. It’s much more ubiquitous and useful in Germany than it is in the United States, but it can get very complicated very quickly. Also, one of my goals for the trip was to pick a day it seemed appropriate and speak only German on that day. I did manage it one day and that was probably my proudest moment. To be able to go to Germany and blend in with the local population was a huge victory for me, especially because of my German heritage.
In summer 2015, Squalicum High senior Caitlin Madden went on a trip abroad to Spain organized through her Spanish Advanced Placement (AP) class.
I would definitely recommend all teenagers who really want to travel and learn about other cultures to take on the opportunity that is available to them to travel to a different country. The trip to Spain was a test run for college. We did have chaperones with us and had some meals and a place to sleep, but we were on our own. I had to step out of my shy bubble in order to make friends. We had to budget our money and how we spend our time.
Even though I’m Hispanic, I branched out in my speaking abilities which was a confidence booster. Learning how to cooperate with one another when we had to room together was another college-prep aspect to it. This was the first time that I was away from my family for two weeks. Overcoming homesickness was hard, but Spain felt like my second home. I felt I had been there before and I belonged there. I especially felt this in the city of Granada when I saw the Alhambra. This feeling of home and security swept over me and I could not stop crying out of happiness. It was the first time I ever cried from extreme joy. It was absolutely magical. They had told us that we might be able to feel the magic when we were going up there to see it, but that sounded really cheesy and I wasn’t expecting to feel it. But I was wrong. I guess you can find home wherever you are, no matter how far away from family you may be.